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This November, we have a big decision to make. Will we go forward with a presidential administration that respects our democracy? Will we go backward to a former president who puts at risk not only our right to vote, but also how we live as Americans; our ability to speak freely, to organize together and to belong to this country? My perspective on these questions is unique. I was born in a country destroyed by authoritarianism, and I spent the past few years 100% focused on protecting our democracy as a member of the Biden-Harris administration. Maybe my story can help you make your choice.

I was born in Somalia under authoritarian regime led by strongmen. They did not allow dissent and used physical violence when people spoke up. My parents were business owners, but their business success did not protect my family from the dictator's favored tools of violence and suppression. When Somalia collapsed in a civil war, the United States welcomed my family as refugees. Through my neighbors, refugee-serving organizations and teachers, I learned English, our American history and our tradition of democracy and civil rights.

I became a U.S. citizen. In the wake of 9/11 terrorist attacks, I experienced increased discrimination because of my Muslim faith, but at the same time I felt more included in the United States. I found my voice as a peacebuilder sharing my family's experience of war and speaking against the invasion of Iraq. I organized my neighbors to vote. By participating in our democracy, I experienced the power and influence of when people come together.

Like my parents, I found success in business as a tech and social entrepreneur. In 2017, I was in Nairobi, Kenya, for the tech startup company I cofounded, when I experienced an attempt at dictatorial power by President Donald Trump. He issued an illegal executive order that banned visitors, immigrants and refugees from Somalia and six other Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. In the airport, I saw the anguish on the faces of people who had earned the right to legally travel but were denied access. I reached out to friends, politicians and lawyers in the U.S. for help. Trump continued to act like the failed authoritarian leaders of my childhood in Somalia, and good people came together, again and again, to organize.

We needed better! As a father of four children, I needed our country to treat them, like all children, with empathy and respect. Trump regularly calls families like mine — refugees, Muslims and many other American citizens — enemies of America. He separated immigrant children from their families and put them in cages. In 2020, I joined the Biden-Harris campaign with a commitment to use our democracy to defeat President Trump. And we did!

After the election, President Joe Biden appointed me as the highest Somali American official in his administration. I served as a senior adviser in the U.S. State Department. I helped advance the president's agenda for equity and democratic renewal at home and abroad. I listened to Americans across our country to hear their vision for a more inclusive and prosperous America. I am proud to have been part of an administration that brought together more than 74 nations to develop a Declaration for Democracy. It proclaims support for "effective participation and will of the people as humanity's most enduring means to advance peace, prosperity, equality, sustainable development and security." Biden's leadership has made a difference promoting and protecting our freedoms.

This November, we have many reasons to support and oppose both candidates for president. For me, it is too dangerous to allow another four years of an authoritarian like President Trump. Trump promises to work for the American people, but his history shows he prioritizes himself over all of us as Americans. Like other tyrants, his only focus is himself and his personal interests. As President Biden consults with his family and advisers amid pressures to step down after the presidential debate, it is important that we organize and vote in November to preserve our democracy, and building on the success of the Biden-Harris's first term administration, regardless of who the eventual nominee from the Democratic Party is.

Hamse Warfa served as a Biden appointee to the U.S. State Department and is currently serving on the Biden/Harris 2024 campaign. He is a former deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.